Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Dogged, by Greatness.

The Scaglieris, or della Scalas, were Verona's greatest ruling family, who dominated the city beginning in the 1300s. Their family emblem was the dog. You can even see dogs on their elaborate tombs, holding up shields in their little paws.

Apparently, the family thought the greatest of the great was Genghis Khan, and the word "Khan" reminded them of the Italian word "cane" (pronounced KAH-nay), for dog. So they adopted Cujo as the family symbol.

The greatest and best known of the Scaglieris was Francesco, who came to be known as "Can'Grande." That's right. The original Big Dog. A ruthless but effective political leader, he was also a patron of the arts. Can'Grande gave refuge to Dante in Verona after the poet's exile. Hence, Dante pays tribute to the Big Dog himself in several of his works. The best known is probably in Canto XVII of the Divine Comedy, where Dante says "even his enemies would be unable to keep silent about him."

Can'Grande's reign was followed by other pups in the della Scala litter, among them:

    Nephew Mastino (the Mastiff)
    The Mastiff's son Can'Grande II (Big Dog 2), killed and succeeded by his brother:
    Can'Signorio (Mr. Dog, or Lord Dog), then succeeded by:
    his son, Can'Francesco (Frankie Dog. so to speak.)

What? No General Dogsbody in the family?

Here's a closer look at one of the dogs on the della Scala tomb.(On the shield is the family coat of arms, the ladder. That's what "La Scala" means in Italian.)

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